What kind of implications could the illegal actions of one forensic scientist have on open and closed criminal cases?
When physical evidence needs to undergo analysis in a criminal case, litigants usually rely on the jurisdictions crime lab. But what happens when it turns out that the crime labs, or the people working in them, are not as reliable as previously thought? This can create doubt that can have a serious effect on open and closed cases. This is exactly what is happening right now in the State of New Jersey.
Kamalkant Shah, a forensic scientist at the New Jersey State Police Office of Sciences North Regional Laboratory, is suspected of falsifying lab results. Specifically, he is believed to have falsified records claiming that various substances were marijuana without completing the necessary tests. This is called “dry labbing” in the legal community. On one day in December of 2015 he was found to be taking a longer time than usual to complete the test he was running and then making a determination before the test was finished. At this point he was removed from the lab. In January of 2016, he was suspended without pay from his position as a drug tester.
Although he was only caught dry labbing one time, it is unclear how many tests he conducted in this fashion during his time with the lab from 2005-2015. Therefore, forensic evidence in almost 8,000 criminal cases has been called into question all over the state. What’s more, the attorney general failed to notify county prosecutors about the situation until more than 2 months after the original incident.
It is unclear at this time, but there is a distinct possibility that Shah could face criminal charges. At this point, state officials are unsure what effect Shah’s indiscretion or indiscretions could have on criminal cases throughout New Jersey.
If you are suspected of or have been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you retain skilled Burlington County criminal defense counsel as soon as possible.